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Best Foods for Dogs with Sensitive Stomachs

Just like some people, some dogs suffer from sensitive stomachs. Although this is rarely a life-or-death issue, these poor pooches often struggle to digest their food well, and experience a variety of troubling gastrointestinal symptoms.

It is important to have such dogs examined by a veterinarian to ensure they are suffering from a sensitive stomach, and not some other ailment.

Several serious health problems can cause similar symptoms, so you need to rule these out. But, dogs with sensitive stomachs may benefit from several foods designed to help them feel better.

Read below for more details on the best dog foods for dogs with sensitive stomachs, or check out our quick picks below:

Dog Food Rating Price
CANIDAE Life Stages   $$$ (check price on Amazon)
Blue Buffalo Basics Limited-Ingredient   $$$ (check price on Amazon)
Hill’s Science Diet Sensitive Stomach & Skin Dry Dog Food   $$$ (check price on Amazon)
NUTRO Natural Choice Limited Ingredients Dry Dog Food   $$$$ (check price on Amazon)
Purina Pro Plan Sensitive Skin & Stomach Formula    $$ (check price on Amazon)

Symptoms of a Sensitive Stomach

Dogs with sensitive stomachs typically exhibit a relatively similar set of symptoms. However, some dogs experience some symptoms more often than others, as each dog is an individual. Nevertheless, your dog may have a sensitive stomach if she displays any of the following symptoms:

  • Vomiting – While the occasional bout of vomiting is normal (dogs have an “eat first, barf later” mantra), repeated bouts of vomiting likely indicate that your dog either has a sensitive stomach or a serious health issue.
  • Diarrhea – Loose or runny stools are another symptom that occasionally plague all dogs, but repeated occurrences indicate the presence of a sensitive stomach or a more serious problem.
  • Gas If your dog engages in chemical warfare on a regular basis, she is likely suffering from a sensitive stomach (and let’s be honest, you both suffer from this symptom). Gas-x can help treat symptoms, but ideally, you’ll want to resolve your dog’s tummy issues at the source.

best dog food for sensitive stomachs

Why Do Dogs Suffer from Sensitive Stomachs?

A variety of things can cause your dog to suffer from a sensitive stomach, and you’ll need to perform a little bit of detective work to determine the things that cause her the most trouble. You should learn as much as you can about the things that commonly upset dogs’ stomachs, but you’ll also have to engage in a little trial-and-error.

However, it is important to realize that it may be impossible to definitively determine the root cause of your dog’s digestive difficulties. In such cases, you’ll simply need to do your best to find a food your dog can digest easily.

Four of the most common reasons for stomach sensitivity include:

1. Your dog is unable to digest some of the proteins or fat in his food.

Sensitive dogs may be unable to digest some protein sources or large quantities of fat, so stick to easily digested proteins – chicken and lamb are two good choices – and avoid high-fat foods and table scraps.

If your dog’s digestion issues are a result of your pooch eating some unusual (which isn’t fed to him regularly), his upset stomach can be quelled with a serving of rice or other simple foods.

2. Your dog is allergic to some of the proteins in his food

Food allergies usually cause skin- or ear-related symptoms, but they can also cause digestive upset. Food allergies are usually treated with an elimination-challenge diet, which involves removing all common allergens from your dog’s diet until the problem is resolved, and then testing her reaction when they are reintroduced individually.

3. Your dog is unable to digest the ingredients in his treats

Just like their food, a dog’s treats can contain ingredients that upset the function of your pup’s digestive system. Additionally, offering your dog too many treats can overwhelm her body. Avoid treats while trying to solve your dog’s sensitive stomach issues. Once you’re ready to reintroduce treats, try opting for hypoallergenic dog treats.

4. Your dog is suffering from emotional distress

Stress and anxiety (both acute and chronic) can also cause your dog’s digestive system to struggle. It may help to keep a record of your dog’s experiences, meals and eliminations to help pin down the causal factor. It may also help to provide your dog with a cozy den of her own in which she can retreat after meals.

Switching Foods for a Sensitive Pup

It’s always wise to transition your dog from one food to another in a slow, gradual manner, but it is especially important to do so for dogs that do not digest well. Abruptly changing such a dog’s food is just begging for additional problems, so make sure to take it slow.

Most veterinarians recommend starting by giving your dog a bowl of food containing about 80% to 90% of their old food, and 10% to 20% of their new food. Increase the percentage of new food to about 30% to 40% on the next day, while reducing the quantity of the old food to about 60% to 70%.

Continue in this same manner until you are providing your dog with 100% of the new food – the whole process should take about 5-7 days.

Not all dogs will suffer gastrointestinal upset from a new food, and it may even start to produce positive results very quickly. In such cases, it may make sense to accelerate the pace of the switch. You’ll just have to use your best judgment.

best dog food for sensitive stomachs

Characteristics of Good Foods for Dogs with Sensitive Stomachs

Because of dogs can suffer from a sensitive stomach for a variety of reasons, and different ingredients affect some dogs differently than others, it can be difficult to make many generalizations with regard to good foods for dogs that don’t digest food well.

However, there are a few things that tend to characterize most foods that are easily digested, including:

  • The absence of grains — Some dogs are able to digest corn, wheat and other grains without issue, but dogs with sensitive stomachs may not be able to do so.
  • A limited number of ingredients – The more ingredients in a dog food, the higher the chances are that one of them will upset your dog’s digestive system. Accordingly, while your dog still needs to consume a variety of ingredients to obtain a nutritionally balanced diet, it is wise to limit the overall number and avoid unnecessary additives. Formulas marketed as hypoallergenic dog foods are another option, as they often used limited ingredients.
  • Comprised of foods that are easily digested – There are always exceptions, but most dogs digest chicken, lamb, brown rice and potatoes relatively well, so these are often good ingredients to look for in a new food.
  • Contain ingredients and supplements that aid the digestive process – Some foods include dog-friendly probiotics or yogurt, which help keep your dog’s stomach-churning properly. Others contain substances like pumpkin or high-fiber ingredients to help firm up your dog’s stools.
  • Bland composition. While many owners may seek out unique protein sources and a mix of several veggies and fruits for their dog’s kibble, the best gastrointestinal dog food tend to be quite bland compared to most formulas. Basic meats and rice are the most common ingredients with food designed for dogs with upset stomachs.

5 Best Foods for Dogs with Sensitive Stomachs

It can be difficult to calm down your dog’s sensitive stomach, and you may have to try a few different foods before you hit upon the perfect recipe for your pup. However, the following five foods are well-suited for dogs with sensitive stomachs and are high-rated by other owners who have already offered them to their dogs.

1. CANIDAE Life Stages Dry Dog Food

About: CANIDAE Life Stages Dry Dog Food is a premium-ingredient dog food that is made without many of the problematic ingredients found in other foods. Formulated by veterinarians to be easily digested, CANIDAE Life Stages is a great choice for dogs with sensitive stomachs.

Prices: $$$

Features

  • Contains no soy, corn or wheat; instead, the carbohydrate content primarily comes from brown rice, barley and bran
  • Fortified with pro-biotics to help ensure your pup’s digestive system works like it should
  • Suitable for puppies and dogs of all life stages, which eliminates the need to transition to different foods over time
  • Includes Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids to support joint health and promote good coat condition

PROS: CANIDAE Life Stages dog food contains some of the highest-quality ingredients of any food on our list, including lamb, several easily digested carbohydrates and sunflower oil (a great source of fat). Most owners report that their dogs enjoy the taste and stop suffering from their digestive issues after making the switch.

CONS: Some owners report that this food did not clear up their dog’s digestive problems. However, this is to be expected – no food works perfectly for every dog. This CANIDAE formula also features some controversial ingredients like tomato pomace and rice bran, as well as a less than desirable protein composition percentage.

Ingredient List: Lamb meal, brown rice, cracked pearled barley...

Lamb meal, brown rice, cracked pearled barley, rice bran, peas, millet, canola oil, lamb, tomato pomace, natural flavor, flaxseed meal, potassium chloride, choline chloride, sun-cured alfalfa meal, inulin (from chicory root), lecithin, sage extract, cranberries, beta-carotene, rosemary extract, sunflower oil, yucca schidigera extract, dried Enterococcus faecium fermentation product, dried Lactobacillus acidophilus fermentation product, dried Lactobacillus casei fermentation product, dried Lactobacillus plantarum fermentation product, dried Trichoderma longibrachiatum fermentation extract, vitamins (vitamin E supplement, thiamine mononitrate, ascorbic acid, vitamin A supplement, biotin, niacin, calcium pantothenate, pyridoxine hydrochloride (vitamin B6), vitamin B12 supplement, riboflavin, vitamin D3 supplement, folic acid), minerals (iron proteinate, zinc proteinate, copper proteinate, ferrous sulfate, zinc sulfate, copper sulfate, potassium iodide, manganese proteinate, manganous oxide, manganese sulfate, sodium selenite), papaya, pineapple.

2. Blue Buffalo Basics Limited-Ingredient Dog Food

About: Blue Buffalo Basics Limited-Ingredient Dog Food is formulated to provide your pup with a balanced and nutritious diet, without including any unnecessary ingredients. This helps to alleviate many of the problems associated with food sensitivities or allergies.

Prices: $$$

Features

  • Contains oatmeal, potatoes and brown rice, which are easily digested by dogs with sensitive stomachs
  • Contains added fruits, vegetables and supplements to help prevent nutritional deficiencies
  • Fortified with glucosamine and chondroitin to help encourage joint health
  • Made in the USA

PROS: Blue Buffalo Basics Limited-Ingredient dog food is one of the most highly rated dog foods available, and most owners report that switching to this food helped eliminate digestive issues and promote better coat health. Additionally, because it includes things like potatoes and pumpkin, it can help firm up your dog’s stools. This makes it a great dog food for diarrhea prone pooches.

CONS: A very small number of owners reported that Blue Buffalo Basics did not help to alleviate their dog’s sensitive stomach issues and it doesn’t include any probiotics. However, it contains most of the characteristics that accompany most good foods for dogs with sensitive stomachs, so it is still a wise choice.

Ingredient List: Turkey, Turkey Broth, Potatoes...

Turkey, Turkey Broth, Potatoes, Flaxseed (source of Omega 3 and 6 Fatty Acids), Pea Protein, Fish Oil (source of Omega 3 Fatty Acids), Pumpkin, Guar Gum, Potassium Chloride, Salt, Carrageenan, Cassia Gum, Cranberries, Blueberries, Choline Chloride, Mixed Tocopherols, Glucosamine Hydrochloride, Chondroitin Sulfate, Vitamin E Supplement, L-Ascorbyl-2-Polyphosphate (source of Vitamin C), Zinc Amino Acid Chelate, Iron Amino Acid Chelate, Copper Amino Acid Chelate, Manganese Amino Acid Chelate, Sodium Selenite, Thiamine Mononitrate (Vitamin B1), Cobalt Amino Acid Chelate, Niacin Supplement (Vitamin B3), Calcium Pantothenate (Vitamin B5), Vitamin A Supplement, Riboflavin Supplement (Vitamin B2), Biotin (Vitamin B7), Vitamin B12 Supplement, Potassium Iodide, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride (Vitamin B6), Vitamin D3 Supplement, Folic Acid (Vitamin B9).

3. Hill’s Science Diet Sensitive Stomach & Skin Dry Dog Food

About: Hill’s Science Diet Sensitive Stomach & Skin Dry Dog Food is formulated for easy digestion and complete, balanced nutrition. It contains a number of high-value additives, which will help ensure your pet’s stomach handles it without a problem.

Prices: $$$

Features

  • Fortified with vitamins, minerals and amino acids to help promote digestive function
  • Contains antioxidants that provide clinically proven health benefits
  • Includes several vegetables and fruits to improve flavor and provide balanced nutrition
  • 100% satisfaction guarantee – you can receive a full refund if you are not happy with the product

PROS: Most owners find that Hill’s Science Diet Sensitive Stomach & Skin dog food helps to alleviate the problems associated with their pet’s sensitive stomach (it also receives high marks for helping to eliminate skin problems). Most dogs seem to love the flavor too – even otherwise picky pups.

CONS: The very first listed ingredient in Hill’s Science Diet is Brewers rice, and its primary protein source is chicken meal – neither of which are ideal. This food also contains some controversial ingredients like pea protein and soybean oi. However, most of the other ingredients are welcome additions.

Ingredient List: Brewers Rice, Chicken Meal, Whole Grain Sorghum...

Brewers Rice, Chicken Meal, Whole Grain Sorghum, Cracked Pearled Barley, Pea Protein, Pork Fat, Soybean Oil, Chicken Liver Flavor, Dried Beet Pulp, Lactic Acid, Potassium Chloride, Iodized Salt, Flaxseed, L-Lysine, Choline Chloride, vitamins (Vitamin E Supplement, L-Ascorbyl-2-Polyphosphate (source of Vitamin C), Niacin Supplement, Thiamine Mononitrate, Vitamin A Supplement, Calcium Pantothenate, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Riboflavin Supplement, Biotin, Folic Acid, Vitamin D3 Supplement), minerals (Ferrous Sulfate, Zinc Oxide, Copper Sulfate, Manganous Oxide, Calcium Iodate, Sodium Selenite), Taurine, Oat Fiber, Mixed Tocopherols for freshness, Natural Flavors, Beta-Carotene, Apples, Broccoli, Carrots, Cranberries, Green Peas.

4. NUTRO Natural Choice Limited Ingredients Dry Dog Food

About: NUTRO Natural Choice Limited Ingredients Dry Dog Food is a limited-ingredient diet, designed to be easy on your pup’s digestive tract. Additionally, this bland dog food’s primary ingredients — lamb and brown rice – are typically very easy for dogs to digest.

Prices: $$$$

Features

  • Australian- or New Zealand-sourced lamb is the first listed ingredient
  • Fortified with antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and omega fatty acids help ensure balanced nutrition
  • Includes premium and easily digested carbohydrates, such as whole brown rice and whole grain oatmeal

PROS: NUTRO Limited Ingredient dog food contains some of the highest-quality ingredients of any dog food available, and it doesn’t contain a lot of the unnecessary additives that other foods do. This is especially helpful for dogs with sensitive stomachs, and most owners report that their dogs digest the food very well.

CONS: NUTRO Natural Choice is slightly more expensive than many of the other options available for dogs with sensitive stomachs. Additionally, while it is a limited ingredient food, NUTRO Natural Choice Limited Ingredient Dog Food includes chicken fat, which may trigger allergies in susceptible dogs. It also contains some less than ideal ingredients like rice bran, brewer’s rice, and soybean oil.

Ingredient List: Lamb, Lamb Meal, Brewers Rice...

Lamb, Lamb Meal (source of Glucosamine and Chondroitin Sulfate), Brewers Rice, Rice Bran, Chickpeas, Split Peas, Whole Brown Rice, Whole Grain Oatmeal, Natural Flavor, Chicken Fat (preserved with mixed Tocopherols), Sunflower Oil (preserved with mixed Tocopherols), Soybean Oil (preserved with mixed Tocopherols), Pea Protein, Potassium Chloride, Salt, Choline Chloride, DL-Methionine, Taurine, Zinc Sulfate, Niacin Supplement, Vitamin E Supplement, Calcium Pantothenate, Riboflavin Supplement (Vitamin B2), Pyridoxine Hydrochloride (Vitamin B6), Iron Amino Acid Chelate, Copper Amino Acid Chelate, Selenium Yeast, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Manganese Amino Acid Chelate, Biotin, Vitamin A Supplement, Thiamine Mononitrate (Vitamin B1), Vitamin D3 Supplement, Potassium Iodide, Folic Acid, Rosemary Extract, Decaffeinated Green Tea Extract, Spearmint Extract.

5. Purina Pro Plan Sensitive Skin & Stomach Salmon & Rice Formula

About: Purina Pro Plan Sensitive Skin & Stomach Formula is a nutritionally balanced and easily digested dog food that is made with real salmon, rice and other ingredients that are unlikely to upset your dog’s stomach.

Price: $$

Features

  • Contains no corn, wheat or soy to help ensure digestibility
  • Made without any artificial dyes or flavors to avoid unnecessarily stressing your dog’s sensitive stomach
  • Formulated to contain antioxidants, which will help to ensure proper immune function

PROS: Purina Pro Plan Sensitive Skin & Stomach Salmon & Rice Formula is one of the best-rated dog foods available for pups with troubled tummies. While some owners complain about the fishy smell, most report that their dogs love the food, and that this food eliminated the problems the pups previously suffered.

CONS: At this price point, it is difficult to find a food that is only made with the highest quality ingredients, so you’ll have to accept the fact that Purina Pro Plan Sensitive Skin & Stomach has a few sub-standard ingredients. For example, high-priced foods would likely include brown rice instead of Brewers rice, and avoid things like unidentified fats.

Ingredient List: Salmon, Canola Meal, Brewers Rice...

Salmon, Canola Meal, Brewers Rice, Barley, Oat Meal, Fish Meal (Source of Glucosamine), Animal Fat Preserved with Mixed-Tocopherols, Salmon Meal, Dried Egg Product, Brewers Dried Yeast, Natural Flavor, Inulin, Fish Oil, Salt, Vitamin E Supplement, Potassium Chloride, Zinc Sulfate, L-Ascorbyl-2-Polyphosphate (Source of Vitamin C), Ferrous Sulfate, Manganese Sulfate, Niacin, Vitamin A Supplement, Copper Sulfate, Calcium Pantothenate, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Vitamin B-12 Supplement, Thiamine Mononitrate, Riboflavin Supplement, Calcium Iodate, Vitamin D-3 Supplement, Menadione Sodium Bisulfite Complex (Source of Vitamin K Activity), Folic Acid, Biotin, Sodium Selenite. J-4449.

What Else to Feed a Dog With An Upset Stomach?

In our article on what to feed a dog with an upset stomach, we discuss more feeding tips on what to give your tummy-troubled pooch.

If your dog isn’t doing well with his current dog food, you can temporarily feed a mix of protein and carbohydrates you prepare yourself, with a mix of one part protein to two parts carbohydrates. Just make sure to keep the food bland and gastro-friendly!

For protein, stick to easily digestible protein sources like:

  • Chicken
  • Turkey
  • Lean Ground Beef

For carbohydrates do:

  • Boiled Rice
  • Boiled Potatoes

Mixing in low-sodium chicken broth is another way to soften up your dog’s food and make it a bit more appealing.

***

No matter which food you decide upon for your sensitive dog, be sure to make the switch gradually. With a little patience, some experimentation and lots of love, you’ll surely figure out the best way to keep your dog’s stomach full.

Does your dog have a sensitive stomach? What do you do to help ease his troubles? Have you found a great food that he manages to keep down and digest well? Tell us all about it in the comments below.

About the Author Ben Team

Ben is a proud dog owner and lifelong environmental educator who writes about animals, outdoor recreation, science, and environmental issues. He lives with his beautiful wife and spoiled-rotten Rottweiler JB in Atlanta, Georgia. Read more by Ben at FootstepsInTheForest.com.

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